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St. Louis County snowplow drivers set to strike on Wednesday

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St. Louis County snowplow
A St. Louis County snowplow clears a road north of Duluth.
Andrew Krueger | MPR News 2013

Updated: 6:59 p.m.

Snowplow drivers in St. Louis County say they will go on strike starting Wednesday.

The county and about 160 members of the local Teamsters union have been at an impasse over wages, health care and sick leave. The union drivers voted 117-8 on Saturday to reject the county's proposed contract, offered at the end of a marathon mediation session on Friday.

The union had filed an intent to strike notice earlier this month, and a cooling off period ended Monday.

The union on Tuesday said members will start picketing St. Louis County public works locations at 7 a.m. Wednesday and will have mobile pickets follow any vehicles that deploy without union drivers.

“This was a tough decision for the membership to make. However, the Teamsters employed by St. Louis County deserve parity of benefits with the civil service and merit employees,” Brian Aldes, Teamsters Local 320 secretary treasurer and principal officer, said in a statement.

Union officials also said they’ll “keep the lines of communication open with the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services should St. Louis County request additional mediation after its final contract offer.”

County officials said on Monday that they have a contingency plan to keep roads plowed but hope they don’t have to use it.

MPR News reporter Matt Sepic contributed to this story.